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BRIGHTON FRINGE: Mengele – Rialto Theatre

By: Smokescreen Productions

Reviewer: Simon Topping

The play starts on a Brazilian beach. Two strangers, a man and women, face each other. The man, who we are soon to find out is Joseph Mengele, has been saved from drowning by a mysterious, questioning woman simply known as Azra. Or has he? Mengele cannot quite get his bearings, something feels wrong, why is the women so enigmatic and how does she seemingly know so much about him?

It must be a hard and weighty task producing a show about Mengele as he was a high ranking Nazi who evaded capture fleeing to South America. He eventually died in 1979 of a seizure while swimming, having never been brought to justice. Mengele, the notorious Dr of Auschwitz, performed horrific deadly human experiments on his prisoners and decided who would live and who would be sent to the gas chambers to die. All this was done under the guise of seeking a “pure” race of people to make the world a “better” place.

This sensitive two-hander, developed with the support and advice of from the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Amud Aish Holocaust Museum in New York, is performed in three short acts: Hubris, Nemesis and Catharsis and takes the audience through a journey of verbal sparring between the two protagonists as Azra probes, questions and mirrors Mengele in order to test him. At first the German appears grateful to his saviour and almost reasonable as a human being but a small scratch under the surface reveal the true nature of a man who is unrepentant for the series of atrocities that he has committed.

The writing is patchy in places but chilling in others especially when any crimes of Mengele’s are listed. Most poignant is when Mengele talks of the affection he has for the children in the camps; it is sickening to hear, unsettling and overwhelmingly sad.

A compelling piece, Tim Marriott’s intense and unrepenting characterisation of Mengele carries the play. It is a fabulous tour de force as he winds through the gears of gratitude and confusion to cold madness and defiance. Maria Alexe as Azra parries well and turns up the heat on her co-star nicely.

Mengele is an important piece to view. We should never forget what has happened. It is mostly well produced and although modern references in the play feel slightly forced it is wonderfully acted.

Reviewed on 4th May | Image: Contributed

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